When your feet are too small (a size 2.5 or 3) or too large (a size 13 or more), Payal Kothari comes to your rescue with her shoe line Varq by Veruschka. A shoe designer, Kothari studied at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), New York and worked at Nina and Delman soon after. She came to India and started her brand, Veruschka by Payal Kothari in 2006. Thee years later, she realised she needed to learn the intricate techniques of shoe construction and went to Florence, Italy to do that.
Today, the 34 year-old retails custom-made shoes for people with specific requests out of her Grant Road-based studio. The idea of custom-making shoes, she says, came to her when customers started asking for made-to-order shoes for their weddings and Navjot ceremonies. “There were also those who had had accidents that resulted in a smaller ankle width in one foot. Some had a foot problem, others had either very broad feet or very narrow feet.”
She adds, “If clients ask for customisation in a current style, we make them at no extra cost. But if we make a brand new style, it is a little more expensive.”
She explains, “We have two shoe lines, Veruschka by Payal Kothari and Varq by Veruschka. Veruschka shoes are more Western whereas Varq shoes are more Indian. The Veruschka line starts at about Rs 6,000 and could cost upto Rs 9,000, while the Varq line ranges between Rs 2,500 and Rs 6,000.” Kothari works mostly with PU (polyurethane), a material sourced from the local market as well as export factories that supply abroad. She also works with printed fabrics, satins, especially upholstery satins, hardware-like crystals and stones and cork. The shoes are made in a workshop based near Mumbai Central by a team of 12-14 people.
We’re curious to know if customers come with their own designs or references. She explains, “Customers come knowing exactly what they want. Sometimes it isn’t technically possible, so we explain to them what can be done.” She cites the recent example of Rina Dhaka who came to her with picture references for shoes to be made for a particular show. While Payal retained the style, the material had to be changed, straps had to be added and modifications had to be made to make the shoes more Veruschka, she claims.
She also adds, “We customise shoes for several designers for their fashion shows. Veruschka shoes have walked the ramps of designers like Pria Kataria Puri, Anita Dongre, Surily Goel, Nikasha, Payal Singhal and James Ferriera. We also created a shoe line for Manish Malhotra’s Spring / Summer Lakme Fashion Week finale show and Vikram Phadnis’ opening show for Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.”
Three for your shoe
Another set of designers that customise shoes to your needs is trio Hersh Kotecha, Malini Kotecha and Priyanka Tejwani. They have been manufacturing and selling designer maternity clothing for women since 1993 and thought of diversifying in 2003, when they came across artisans who were third generation shoemakers.
Kotecha recounts, “Our first shoe orders were for The Oak Tree, a shop in Colaba. Liz Hurley was one of our first clients. We then came up with four shoe lines; Stoffa, Stoffa Gal, Stoffa Bride and Stoffa Select. Stoffa is our main line found in our stores and Stoffa Select is outsourced to other stores. Stoffa and Stoffa Select are both in keeping with current trends and designs. The Stoffa Bride line is mostly customised. The prices are also correspondingly higher because the materials used are richer and heavier. The designs are detailed and require workmanship.” You can be sure to find more bling and the shoes use expensive materials like crystals. Stoffa Gal is meant for anyone from the age of 3 to 18. The designs are muted and the prices are attractive. “They are aimed at children and teenagers who prefer bright colours and come with lower heels. Stoffa Gal came about when we realised children accompanying their moms wanted to shop too.”
He elaborates, “We mainly do customisations for brides. We make changes to an existing design or combine two designs. There are also customers with back problems who require a low heel or more padding. For customers with sizes like a 34 or a 42 we custom-make shoes since we don’t stock those sizes.”
What kind of customisations do they offer? He replies, “We offer a choice in fabrics, embroideries, stone work, crystals, leather, heels, etc.” Do custom-made shoes bump up the price? He explains, “Unlike producing a batch of shoes in the same style, making a single shoe costs us about 10 per cent more. We charge the customer accordingly. The Stoffa line starts at Rs 2,000 and Stoffa Bride at Rs 7,000.”
Mojdis in your size
Aashka Mehta is another designer who custom-makes footwear. She studied at Central St Martin’s, London and pursued a specialisation in footwear and bags in 2006. The idea of customising shoes came to her when she realised everybody in India wanted things their own way. In 2008, she began to supply to hi-end boutiques in the country. But for customers who purchase directly from her, she offers a 20-30 per cent discount.
She emphasises, “My forte is Indian footwear. I modify ballerina shoes to mojdis. The price of the sandal depends on the customer’s budget. The range starts at Rs 2,500 and could go up to Rs 8,000.”
Who are her customers? “A lot of brides want footwear that matches their outfit exactly or has a comfortable heel. There are also people who have different sizes on each foot. For instance, a 43 on one and a 44 on the other. Then there are those with different foot widths,” she says.
She points out, “I don’t use leather at all in my products. I offer a choice in fabrics like silks, brocades or any other. I could provide cushioning for comfort too.” Mehta has workshops in Cotton Green, Sewri, Wadala and Sion.
If you had trouble locating shoes that provide a solution to your problem or that catch your fancy, you could get in touch with any of these designers and you could be comfortably walking more than a mile in your own shoes.
Log on to www.veruschka.in
Visit: Veruschka Shoe Studio, 36, Naushir Barucha Marg, Avishkar Building, B-108, Opposite Grant Road Station (W)
Visit: Stoffa, 6/12, Grants Building, 1st Floor, Arthur Bunder Road, Opposite Café Basilico, Colaba
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit: (Only by prior appointment) 401, Yoga Society, 12th Gulmohur Cross Road, JVPD, Juhu